Blood pressure may rise in neighbors of foreclosed homes

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Neighbors of foreclosed homes may face an elevated risk of high blood pressure, according to findings by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers and colleagues. A study of 1,750 Massachusetts residents participating in the long-running Framingham Heart Study from 1987 through 2008 found that each foreclosure within 100 meters of a person’s home raised his or her systolic blood pressure (the top number in the reading) by 1.71 mm/hg. The researchers theorized that this may be due to stress over the effects of vacant properties on home values and community safety.

The study was published online May 12, 2014 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Although the increase was not large enough to pose a significant health risk, it does show that the housing crisis has influenced health, said lead author Mariana Arcaya, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Population and Development Studies.

“It demonstrates that a phenomenon that we think of as being solely in the financial realm is getting reflected in measured aspects of our physiology,” Arcaya said in a Washington Post article. “It’s less about how big the increase in blood pressure is and more about the fact that you can put a blood-pressure cuff on a person and see that this is having an effect on their health.”

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